The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) together with the Department of Health (DOH) have strengthened the 46,621 Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERT) to prevent the surge of COVID-19 and ensure the appropriate responsiveness and management of the communities against the virus.

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DILG Secretary Eduardo Año (Philippine Information Agency / MANILA BULLETIN)

With the decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año stressed in a statement Monday that the “only way that we can maintain the momentum is to ensure that our BHERTS are functioning well.’’

“They are our first line of defense,” Año said.

He noted the value of enhancing the skills and capacities of the over 46,000 BHERTS in the country to ensure that they can protect and respond to the needs of the communities amid the pandemic.

Año added “BHERTs is tasked, among others, to conduct health promotions and education in the barangay, implement minimum health standards, conduct contact tracing at the household level, and monitor COVID-19 cases under home quarantine daily.’’

Under DILG Memorandum Circular 2020-023, the LGUs must organize BHERTS at the minimum ratio of one team for every 5,000 population, and mobilize them to help implement prevention and mitigation, preparedness and response measures for COVID-19.

Each BHERT is composed of one executive officer, a barangay tanod, and two barangay health workers, one of them a nurse or a midwife, and ideally, they are equipped with protective gear such as surgical gowns, goggles, masks, and gloves.

The DILG and DOH jointly launched the “Barangay Health Emergency Response Team is our First Responders In Ending N-COV Diseases” (BHERT-FRIENDS) project which aims to enhance the knowledge and skills of BHERTs in the performance of their mandated duties and function and to strengthen their capacities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through this project, we are assured that our 46,621 BHERTS currently organized nationwide will undergo a retooling, retraining, or refresher course to better equip them with skills on how to manage COVID-19 in their communities,” said DILG Undersecretary and Jonathan Malaya.

Malaya said that with the support of the Local Government Academy, the BHERTS-FRIENDS project will launch a series of online workshops and training to help BHERTs strategize and accomplish tasks, and to help them develop their own materials.

In partnership with the Alliance for Improving Health Outcomes and the Asia Foundation, the joint project will also equip frontliners on the ground with actionable information through the BHERTS Pocket Guide which will be distributed to all teams.

The guide, written in Filipino, contains vital information such as the roles of BHERTS and the sign and symptoms of COVID-19.

Aside from these, community-level action points are also included to guide them on when to refer to a hospital, how to conduct case investigation, contact tracing, case monitoring and tips for reintegration, and reducing stigma.

However, Malaya encouraged everyone not to rely on BHERTs alone, but to help the country through self-discipline by following minimum health standards.

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